Ever since Lake Oswego resident Rose Tanz lost her ability to drive, she has felt her independence slipping away with it.
But recently, Lake Oswego resident JB Lockhart picked Tanz up and drove her to the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center so that Tanz could join a trip to Medical Team International's facility in Tigard. The occasion allowed Tamz to get out of the house and do something she found meaningful without relying on her sons to chauffeur her around.
It also marked a significant milestone for the Lake Oswego and West Linn senior communities.
It was the first ride provided in the history of WLLO Village, an organization in West Linn, Lake Oswego and Stafford Hamlet with the mission to keep seniors in their homes for as long as possible. The village opened June 1 and the new group held a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening at Oswego Heritage House June 11.
"Paying it forward," Lockart said about why she joined WLLO Village as a volunteer. "My mother-in-law got to stay at home because she lived in a very small community and they all pitched in. Somebody would drive her places; somebody would buy her groceries. It's (WLLO Village) just
like this only they were just neighbors."
WLLO Village is one of many villages under the umbrella of Villages NW, a nonprofit organization that organizes villages in the Portland metro area, and consists of volunteers who provide services to members. Membership costs between $300 and $540 per year depending on the level of service and tasks volunteers can perform include changing a hard-to-reach lightbulb, carrying heavy items, providing rides a few times a week and much more.
Membership team volunteer Terri Kramer said WLLO has received marked interest in membership services but that the process to approve members, which includes in-home visits, can take time. WLLO volunteers say the program is not for people who need extensive medical care but instead just need help performing straining tasks around the house. However, they direct prospective members who need more than what WLLO can provide to facilities that can better help them.
"We're not going to provide medical assistance or eldercare but we would provide the neighborly help that a neighbor would provide or your family would provide in the past when families lived closer to each other," volunteer Ellen Steel said.
Along with being a volunteer, Kramer joined as an associate member so that she can attend social gatherings and receive occasional assistance. She also said she can upgrade to full membership for six weeks for free if an unforeseen accident were to happen.
"I joined for the social activities and I'm also a volunteer but also because I'd like to know that there is something there for me if I need it," she said.
Social gatherings include members only concerts at Millenium Plaza Park with a performance by pianist Michael Allen Harrison July 28 and by blues musician Norman Sylvester Aug. 18. They also have monthly lunches and happy hours and volunteers want feedback from members about what other social offerings they would like to be added.
"Several of the people who have signed up early are people who are signing up because of socialization," Kramer said. "They want to avoid being lonely. They want to have a rich life with things to do and make friends and sometimes that's hard to do as you get older. It can be easy to stay in your house and not get out much."
Tamz has enjoyed the social gatherings she has attended.
"Everybody's been very accepting, very kind and very open," she said.
The volunteers said that providing rides is often the most requested service in most villages.
"A lot of people as they age have trouble seeing at night so that's why that's such a common request," Steel said. "The cost to membership matches favorably with a couple Uber rides a month."
But becoming a driver is a bit challenging.
To do so, Lockhart said she had to take 15 hours of driving training, pass a driving test and attend a class where she learned how to properly remove pathogens.
"I'm way better than an Uber driver," she said. "I can drive for the Queen with all this training."
Kramer said that volunteers might not always be available at the drop of the hat to give someone a ride, which is why they advise members to call ahead of time.
"(It's) likely the requests will always be fulfilled but the things that come up on more short notice will always be a little more challenging because it's based on volunteer availability," she said.
Tanz, for her part, said that it was nice to know that she could periodically receive a ride to a medical appointment or another event at the community center. In turn, she hopes to get a little more of her independence back.
For more information on WLLO Village, visit www.wllovillage.org/.
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